The Return of Shakefest – Cultural Oasis in the Midlands

Tullamore, Co. Offaly – This past weekend, Charleville Castle celebrated its physical return of Shakefest, the highly-anticipated world cultures festival after a three year online hiatus due to the pandemic. The festival took place this past weekend to absolute idyllic weather, where fantastic art, music and dance followed suit!.


Shakefest has been a staple of creativity and culture in the Midlands for 18 years. From its origins in 2006 as a small workshop and performance day for cultural dancers, Shakefest has grown into a vibrant family oriented weekend programme! Shakefest boasted a wonderful line-up of workshops, performers, and artists in focus, and was an unforgettable experience for attendees.


The cultural craic on Friday, May 27th started with a fun and dynamic drum circle experience with David Day of Jabba Jabba Jembe in the castle forecourt for all ages, under the bright and warming sun, listening to the heady and rhythmic sound of multiple drums all being beat at once, signifying an amazing way to start the summer.


Terri Dale-Kearney, Programme Director, was thrilled with the turn out, excited to see all performers, instructors, participants and audience members in the great rooms of the castle celebrating cultural and creative diversity all together again. “It was a long and lonely three years but we kept the candle burning bright each year online and found new and innovative ways of reaching our local, national and even international audience” she said. “When we produced our Virtual Haflas and workshops online during the major threat of Covid, it was a unique but lonely time – our dancers would either have to perform or instruct from their own homes or nearby gardens, or under a controlled health and safety environment and social distancing, perform in the castle. The performances were absolutely enthralling to watch in person while filming for the online shows.  One in particular in 2021 when Tolu Makay performed a music video inside the dining room of Charleville Castle, but if only they all had the energy and enthusiasm of our dearly missed audience to feed off of!” 


This year the long overdue energy and excitement was high during the evening Ballroom Performances as the crowd cheered our performers such as Subhashini Goda performing Bharatanatyam and Indian Classical, Bubblelock Hip Hop, The Red Embers Bellydance and Salsa, teen dance sensation Ishani Acharya dancing Odissi, Aparna Shukla of Shubh Connections dancing Kathak, Rahan Comhaltas’ traditional Irish Music,Craic and Storytelling, and finally RDS Taylor Award Winner Finn Nichol and Soundscapes of Nature animated projection show, sometimes to standing ovations.  

Shakefest did not forget about their international online supporters who had also been there throughout Covid to support and to watch the acts and take part in workshops from afar, and Facebook Live streaming took place for most performances to keep the global involvement very much alive. 


Sunday still gave way to absolutely stunning weather, while those enjoyed sitting in the sun in the castle forecourt, others were treated to fun and dynamic Hip Hop lessons with Rama fro Bubblelock for all ages, as well as a dynamic and free-flowing abstract painting workshop for kids, an easy art form which allows creators to experiment with the effect of everyday objects through the paint.


The absolute most spectacular highlight of Shakefest was ‘The People’s Castle’ – an animated projection show by the talented Caroline Conway, a renowned artist from Birr, Co. Offaly. She created an illuminating animation projection show on the front of Charleville Castle as a magnificent visual crescendo to the night’s festivities. The animated stories  focused on the history, community and ethos of Charleville Castle Heritage Trust. The show featured Charleville Castle, built from 1801-1814 – its life, times, and journey from the past to the present and its community aspirations for the future and was attended by Offaly History Director Charlie Finlay, Member Kathleen Finlay and President Helen Bracken as well as Charleville Castle Heritage Trust Managing Trustee Dudley Stewart and Trustee Bridget Vance. The outdoor Castle Illumination show began at 10:30pm just as the last ray of sun fell, and volunteers, crew and attendants alike all danced away in front of the illuminated castle as the show played on.


Feeling thankful to be back together again under such a beautiful setting in the Culture Centre of the Midlands.  Here’s looking to 2024 – Shakefest’s 19th year!


Shakefest is supported by the Offaly County Council Arts Office.

Comment are closed.